“Soul” and “Wonder Woman 1984” review


Disney Pixar, Warner Bros.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, movie studios have had to adapt the way their films are released. Films are now being pushed to digital releases, with “Soul” being released on Disney+ and “Wonder Woman 1984” being released on HBO Max.

Two movies. Both released on Christmas day. One an introspective Pixar film about what it means to be alive, the other a long-awaited sequel to a DC superhero franchise. While “Soul” earned positive reviews from audiences and critics alike, “Wonder Woman 1984” failed to connect with most viewers. 


Released on streaming service Disney+, Pixar’s “Soul” was a stand out from other films released in 2020. The film follows middle school band teacher Joe Gardener, who is attempting to return to Earth after his accidental death. Director Pete Docter combines huge concepts of life and death with the day-to-day setting of New York City while also featuring a diverse cast. Actor Jamie Foxx voices Gardener, the first African American lead in a Pixar film.

“It looked pretty interesting and I heard a lot of good reviews,” Rayleigh Salmon (10) said. “I actually watched it with my family because it’s a pretty family friendly movie.”

Originally intended for a theatrical release on June 19th, 2020, the film was pushed to a strictly digital release due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the experience of viewing in theaters is unavailable, its release onto streaming services makes it more accessible to all, with a Disney+ subscription only costing 7 dollars a month.

“I thought it was really important, but surprisingly I don’t think that many people have seen it,” Salmon said.

The film’s creativity was evident in all aspects. The impressive animation and unique visuals illustrated both a stylized version of our world and “The Great Before,” a new world where unborn souls reside. The soundtrack incorporates many elements of jazz, tying into Joe’s character and enhancing the theme of the film. The fast pace of the movie keeps  audiences interested and allows for reflection during more emotional moments. 

“I really liked the music,” Salmon said. “It’s really good- the soundtrack. I also really liked the visuals. The visuals were very colorful and realistic.”

“Soul” tackles a more mature subject matter than previous Pixar films, illustrating concepts like life and death in approachable ways by creating new worlds and characters to simplify ideas. For example, the “The Great Beyond” is used to represent what occurs after death. The film uses the reliability of these characters and worlds to evoke an emotional response from their audience.

“I guess you would say it’s kind of emotional,” Salmon said. “It’s talking about different people’s personalities and who they are. I loved how it showed that life is a blessing even if it doesn’t go as planned.” 

Docter previously worked on Pixar’s “Inside Out,” which takes a broad idea like emotions and personifies aspects of it’s story. “Soul” also shares similarities to “Coco,” which illustrates an alternative interpretation of mortality and death. These three Pixar films can even serve as somewhat of a trilogy, with “Soul” showing what happens before life, “Inside Out” showing what happens during life and “Coco” showing what happens after death.

“I like that what they portrayed is more important in regards to life and it’s more useful,” Salmon said.

Although adults have embraced the film, it offers particular value to younger audiences because of its vital lesson that life’s value is not derived from finding your purpose, but from enjoying the experience.

“[I would] Definitely [recommend it to] the younger kids, like 9-10, because of the lesson it teaches: just be who you are,” Salmon said. “I think that’s really good for people growing up and they should be creating their own personality.”

Wonder Woman 1984

“Wonder Woman 1984,” released on HBO Max, was intended to serve as the dynamic follow up to the beloved first film, taking place several decades after the original’s setting of 1918. The film follows Wonder Woman as she attempts to stop Maxwell Lord, a new villain who has acquired an ancient wish-granting stone. Director Patty Jenkins had a strong cast and audience anticipation on her side, but the movie’s weak script and execution tarnished the film. 

“We had all heard about the movie, but we were really just looking for something to watch for the night so my dad was like, ‘Why don’t we watch the new Wonder Woman movie?’ so we devoted over two and a half hours to watch it,” Emma Meadows (12) said.

“Wonder Woman 1984” stretches out its plot with a run time of two hours and 31 minutes, losing audience engagement in the process. The sequel steps away from its original focus on Diana and its incorporation of real-world elements, instead focusing on side characters and fantastical plot elements. One major fault of the film is its conflicting tone, with its flat comedic efforts overpowering the film’s message.                                                                                               

“For it to be a female-led movie, I feel like they could’ve done more with that,” Meadows said. “It wasn’t as interesting as I thought. Also, it’s really cheesy. And I’ve heard a lot of people say it was cheesy. I was really disappointed, and the whole time we were just laughing at the movie.”

Although its negative aspects were still present, certain aspects of the movie, like its cast and production value, made it an enjoyable viewing experience. It showcased unique character shifts and impressive action sequences, and the film’s somewhat lighter tone allowed it to be viewed by a range of audiences.  

“[I would recommend it to] anyone who kind of likes action and that kind of stuff,” Landry Thompson (11) said. “I really think it is good for families too because it wasn’t all just fighting and gearing up for battle. They had humorous moments like Steve Trevor trying on the outfits. I think it really could go for a pretty wide range of people.”

The first film took place during the 1940s and it used World War I as a major plot point, with Diana and other characters taking part in war efforts. Its sequel is set in the year 1984, but it fails to command the historical setting effectively, using it only  as a background. “Wonder Woman” serves as Diana’s origin story, allowing for character development and an introduction to a unique setting, but in the sequel, she becomes a static character, not undergoing any major changes and only serving as a plot device for other characters. 

“I probably like the first one better because I’m a pretty big history buff,” Thompson said. “So tying in World War I, I thought that was pretty cool.”

“Wonder Woman 1984” may have not been enjoyed by all, but many audiences still loved the film. The action sequences and more comedic tone could appeal to younger  fans of the DC universe.

“It’s an action movie, so I feel like everyone should like it, but the whole plot and the cheesiness of it made it seem like it should’ve been for younger people,” Meadows said